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Sajith gets rap on knuckles from Speaker for digression



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was warned by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday to adhere to Standing Orders and parliamentary procedures.

The warning was given when government rank members informed the Chair that Opposition Leader Premadasa had digressed from the subject and he should not be permitted to flout the parliamentary procedures.

When time was given (allocated) for him to make a special statement on COVID-19 vaccines, the Opposition Leader spoke of Lankan migrant workers stranded abroad and urged the government to bring them home. The government had spent Rs. 22 billion on rebranding Sri Lanka Telecom and such funds could have been utilised to bring the stranded Lankans home, he said.

Leader of the House, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, raising a point of order, said that the Opposition Leader had moved away from his topic. “Parliament business is done in accordance with the agreements reached at the party leaders, meeting attended by representatives of all parties in Parliament. We have agreed to work according to the agenda and order paper decided there. As per that agenda the Opposition Leader has been given time to speak on COVID-19 vaccine. Now, what is he talking about? Why is the Chair letting him flout the business of the House in this manner? He is not only wasting the time of Parliament but also disrupting the sessions. What is the use of holding party leaders’ meetings to decide the agenda?”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I am raising an important issue. You cannot answer these questions. Please let me speak on behalf of the migrant workers. They were called the Rata Viruvo when they came here to vote for your party but now you have let them down.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando: What is he talking about? He should not be permitted to waste the time of the House. You have a right to raise any question but you have to do it according to the Standing Orders and traditions. You cannot speak out of topic.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I am speaking for the sake of the people in this country. Let me speak.

 Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure State Minister Nimal Lanza: What will happen if everyone gets up and speaks in this manner? We too have been sent here by the people. But there should be order in this House. Isn’t the Opposition Leader aware of it?

Speaker Abeywardena said that it was regrettable to see that the Opposition Leader digressing and wasting time of the House.



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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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